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Green Mountain United Way Working to Improve Lives in Orleans County

in Feature/Newport

DERBY LINE — Most people have heard of the United Way, but not everyone knows exactly what they do. From her office above Community National Bank in Derby Line, Madeleine Roy, the Community Development and Marketing Director for Green Mountain United Way, is working to change that.

“I have many people ask me what it is the United Way does, so I spend a lot of time answering this question,” Roy said.

The United Way mission is to mobilize communities, and create lasting changes in local conditions that will improve lives. They are a worldwide organization that has been around for 130 years now. There are eight United Way organizations in the state of Vermont. Green Mountain United Way covers five counties, including Orleans county.

They are behind some popular local programs, including a grant that they awarded to the Green Mountain Farm to School program, which established the community garden in Newport.

“We are a health and human service organization, and we do community assessment, trying to find strengths and weakness in a specific area,” Roy said. “We see what the cause of a problem might be, and focus heavily on prevention. Our priorities are education and health.”

A while back a study came out that 53 percent of children in the Northeast Kingdom do not have the basic skills they need when they start their education. This is a problem that the Green Mountain United Way is working to address.

“How many times have you been in a grocery store, and a child is sitting in the shopping cart, with the parent paying no attention to the child?” Roy asks. “We discovered that this can be a good learning experience for the child, a time to engage them and work with them to develop the basic skills they need before entering school. The parent could work with the child to learn numbers, or teach them the color of the bananas. What we do in this example is collaborate with parents and organizations, providing them the tools and techniques to get kids to start learning immediately.”

Low income is another issue in the Newport area that the Green Mountain United Way is working to address.

“Again, we focus on prevention, hosting financial literacy workshops to students and adults, teaching the basics of budgeting, savings, and credit.”

Green Mountain United Way also works with other non-profit organizations, networking within different groups. Through their website they established a volunteer network to connect people with a place to volunteer in a specific area, working as a conduit for organizations looking to find volunteers.

One of the biggest fundraising efforts Green Mountain United Way does is called a “business campaign.” Local businesses allow them to come in and talk with their employees, asking them to pledge a certain portion of their paycheck to the organization. About 60 percent of their funding is done this way, but that money stays local. North Country Hospital, Price Chopper, Shaws, and Community National Bank are some of the biggest supporters of their work.

For more information, visit the Green Mountain United Way online.

Suspicious Activity Prompts Newport Police to Issue Reminder to Parents

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — The Newport Police Department is investigating an incident that took place today at around 4:45 p.m. in the former Vermont Teddy Bear parking lot off Farrant Street.

A white male in his 40’s with short brown hair and a beard, approached two young children who were playing in the area and asked them questions about a residence on Farrant Street. The two children didn’t recognize the subject and ran immediately home. The subject was driving a maroon, four door sedan.

Although the police are saying that it does not appear at this time that it was an attempt to abduct the children, they are using the incident as a reminder to parents to always keep a watch on their children as the weather gets warmer, and they are eager to play outside.

They are also reminding everyone not to hesitate in calling the police if they see any suspicious persons or vehicles that they do not recognize.

Newport City Council Bans Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — The message from the Newport city council on Monday night was clear. There will be no medical marijuana dispensaries allowed within the city. The council agreed to new zoning language that would ban the possibility of a dispensary opening up in Newport.

Vermont has four approved dispensaries already, with 1,061 registered medical marijuana patients. Within the last year, the number of patients approved to use medical marijuana in Vermont has increased by 90 percent.

“This was about medical marijuana, not general use, only available by prescription,” Newport resident Pam Ladds said. “It’s an affordable and effective treatment for many diseases. The city council was against it from a place of ignorance as to the medical uses of marijuana, and cloaked their argument in “illegality,” despite it being the state that wants the dispensaries.”

Since 2004, Vermont has allowed patients with certain illnesses to use marijuana medicinally to help with pain management, as well as appetite stimulation. But as far as dispensaries go, they have only been operating in the state for less than a year now.

The dispensaries are located in Brattleboro, Montpelier, Brandon, and Burlington. For patients in the Northeast Kingdom, traveling to these locations is not very convenient. Only 705 people actually use the state’s four dispensaries.

“The move by city council was absurd and unnecessary,” Ladds went on to say. “Current zoning laws would have prevented a downtown location anyway, so changing the zoning was totally redundant. It also ignored several community members, and four out of the five planning commission members. It is dangerous to insert something in the bylaws that is intended to prevent a medical decision.”

House lawmakers are looking to approve two more dispensaries. They are also looking into adding post traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana.

The Newport city council said that other communities within the Northeast Kingdom could host a dispensary, and that they needed to step up to the plate.

Break-In at Mr. O’s Sporting Goods: Firearms Stolen

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — Several firearms are missing from a local sporting goods store after a break-in that took place on Friday.

The Newport Police are reporting that early Friday morning, April 4, they were called out to Mr. O’s Sporting Goods on East Main Street, after a security alarm had been set off.

Officers arrived on the scene at around 1 a.m. and discovered that the store had been broken into.

The Vermont State Police assisted in the search, but the perpetrators had already fled the scene. After an investigation, several pieces of evidence were gathered, including surveillance video which recorded the incident.

Newport Police are saying that several firearms had been stolen during the break-in. Mr. O’s has been in business since 1981, and carries firearms by Remington, Savage, Weatherby, Marlin, Winchester, and Ruger.

The Newport Police are actively reviewing that surveillance video, and anyone with any information is being asked to contact the Newport Police at: 802-334-6733.

Gabree Sentenced to Six to 15 Years For Fatal Accident

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — A year and a half after the car crash that took the lives of Art and Peggy Moran of Jay, the woman who plead guilty to charges of grossly negligent operation of a vehicle that resulted in the crash, was sentenced.

On Wednesday, Alexis Gabree, 28, of St. Albans, was sentenced to serve six to 15 years in prison.

The tragic accident happened on Route 105 in North Troy on Aug. 5, 2012. Art Moran, 82, and his wife Peggy, 75, were on their way home from church, when they were struck by Gabree, who was driving 17 mph over the speed limit. Gabree’s vehicle had strayed across the road before the accident.

Gabree told police after the accident that she was a recovering drug addict who had recently relapsed. Test results showed Gabree had 11 different substances in her bloodstream at the time of the accident, and she was driving without a valid license.

Art Moran died at the scene, and his wife died later as a result of the injuries sustained during the accident. The couple had been married for more than 50 years.

Gabree at the time was on her way to visit her boyfriend at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport. She received minor injuries and was briefly hospitalized.

She plead guilty on two counts of gross negligent operation of a motor vehicle, with a fatality resulting. She will serve six to 15 in prison.

As part of the plea agreement, Gabree, without the court’s approval, will never drive legally again.

Delayed Spring Weather Changes Options for Anglers

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — The late return of spring weather and persistent ice may alter the plans of some anglers this year. While the winter weather extends opportunities for ice fishing on some water bodies, it can also delay anglers’ access to open water for the start of trout season.

“Late springs such as this one traditionally delay the onset of open-water fishing by a few weeks,” said Col. David LeCours, Fish & Wildlife’s head of law enforcement. “But during these years, the ice fishing on lakes such as Champlain and Memphremagog remain good as long as the ice remains stable and safe.”

Trout fishing season opens on April 12 this year, but on most waters in Vermont trout fishing is restricted to casting and trolling rather than ice fishing. Anglers should take note that on rivers, streams, and lakes with seasonal closures, they may not cut a hole through the ice to go ice fishing for trout during the open-water trout season.

LeCours reminded anglers that ice shanties should have been removed by the last Sunday in March, even if the ice remains thick. Temporary fabric wind shelters that remain with the angler are permitted. He also urged anglers to check fishing regulations regarding which waters remain open to fishing year round.

Anglers should proceed with caution and continuously check ice thickness and stability when walking out on ice. Ice conditions have become dangerously thin in many parts of Vermont.

Snow Will Keep Manure Off Fields As Spreading Ban Ends

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — To some, mostly farmers, manure spread on the field smells like money. To others, basically everyone else, it just smells. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, you most likely will not smell either tomorrow, even though the winter spreading ban will end.

The first day of April marks the end of the Winter Manure Spreading Ban imposed by the Accepted Agricultural Practice Regulations (AAPs). The continued presence of snow pack on farm fields will present a challenge to farmers who wish to start spreading manure as soon as the ban is over.

The AAPs require that all agricultural wastes be managed in order to prevent adverse impacts to water quality. That means that while it is legal to spread manure once the winter ban is over, manure must still be applied in a way that does not result in runoff of manure to surface water or across property boundaries. Once the snow begins to melt, manure can be carried away to the low points in the landscape.

To prepare for spring planting, farmers begin emptying their manure storage tanks. It’s the first step in the process of growing the crops that will sustain the farm for the next year. Most dairy farms have the capacity to store manure for about six months in a pit or tank that prevents it from leaching into the ground. In the spring and fall these pits get emptied out and spread on the fields.

To help farmers remain in compliance with the AAPs, the Agency of Agriculture strongly recommends the following:

1) If you still have room in your manure pit, wait until snow is off the fields before you spread manure.

2) If you must spread manure before snow is off the fields, choose fields that are relatively flat and far away from rivers and streams.

3) If you must spread on fields near rivers and streams, do not apply manure within 150 feet of the top of the bank.

4) If you are spreading in fields with ditches, do not apply manure within 150 feet of the ditch.

5) Do not apply manure within 100 feet of property lines and roads.

6) Utilize reduced rates of application.

If farmers observe these added safety precautions while land applying manure in the presence of snow, they will help to minimize any runoff of manure that could occur during snow melt. The Agency urges all those considering applying manure at this time of year to operate with the utmost of care so that water quality is best protected.

Cross Border Friendship and Partnership Grows

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — Phil White of Kingdom Games, and Christian Vachon of the Fondation Christian Vachon, announced that they will be partnering. Christian Vachon has won the past two Dandelion Runs, and the partnership with Kingdom Games will help support Vachon’s work to help underprivileged children in the Magog area, as well as throughout the Eastern Townships.

Kingdom Games organizes over 40 days of running, biking, swimming, triathlon, kayaking, and skating in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Recently they have seen an increase in Canadian participation in the events. This year 20 percent of all adult Canadian registration fees will be dedicated to the Fondation Christian Vachon.

“We got to know Christian, Michel, and Daniel during the Relais du Lac Memphremagog, helping with border crossing issues, establishing a better relay station in downtown Newport, and redirecting them to use the Newport-Derby bike path heading north,” Phil White said. “When we saw the growing numbers of athletes from Canada participating in our events, we thought it made sense to donate a portion of Canadian registration fees to a Canadian charity.”

Photo’s are of Christian Vachon at the finish of last year’s Dandelion Run, which he won with an impressive time of 1:19:23. All photos courtesy of Kingdom Games.
Christian Vachon at the finish of last year’s Dandelion Run, which he won with an impressive time of 1:19:23. All photos courtesy of Kingdom Games.
Coming up on May 17 is the Dandelion Run. It’s a half marathon distance with a 10K option and relay options. It is run largely on dirt roads through the dandelion fields of Morgan, Holland, and Derby. There will be musicians at every relay station.

“We appreciate the support and value the friendship of Phil White and Kingdom Games,” Vachon said. “He puts on some great events that are drawing athletes from all over the world. He’s helped with our Relais du Lac Memphremagog and we are actively encouraging our participants to sign on to The Dandelion Run.”

Most recently, Kingdom Games plowed a temporary skating path between Newport and Magog so that marathon Nordic skaters could skate the length of the lake. It hosts bike rides around Lake Memphremagog, a 25 mile swim the length of the lake, and a 4 day, 3 night kayaking trip on the lake.

For more information on the Dandelion Run, visit them online by clicking here. For more info on Fondation Christian Vachon, click here.

Derick Niles Denies New Charges Against Him

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — Derick Niles, 36, of Newport, pleaded not guilty in court on Monday to a felony count of unlawful trespass into an occupied residence. Niles also entered a not guilty plea in a series of other misdemeanor offenses, including disorderly conduct, violating conditions of release, and unlawful trespass on land.

Last September Niles was arrested after a standoff in which he is alleged to have armed himself with a long rifle, and took to the roof of a garage on his property located on Highland Avenue, threatening the community.

The ordeal ended within a few tense hours with no shots fired and no injuries.

In the new charges facing Niles, he allegedly broke into the home of his ex-wife and threatened her boyfriend, John Karpoff.

According to an affidavit written by Newport City Police officer Aaron Lefebvre, the incident took place at 308 Indian Point Street.

The affidavit goes on to state that Karpoff called 911 last Friday night claiming that Niles had entered the home of Shelby Niles without permission. Once inside he is said to have tried to get Karpoff to fight him.

Fire at Newport Post Office Saturday Morning

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — It appears that the fire which took place at the post office in Newport over the weekend started inside the engine of one of the vehicles. According to a statement by Fire Chief Jaime LeClair, the fire did not appear to be suspicious, and was most likely related to an electrical issue.

It’s reported that at around 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning, the driver of the mail vehicle heard a popping noise coming from under the hood, and was alarmed when he saw smoke coming from the vehicle after starting the engine. The truck was located inside the loading area of the Coventry Street location.

In an attempt to contain the fire, the postal carrier used a fire extinguisher, but the blaze had quickly spread out of control.

By 11:30 a.m. the scene was cleared by the Newport City Fire Department. Only one package located in the back of the truck had burned, but the contents of that package were not destroyed. The same cannot be said of the truck, which suffered a total loss.

This wonderful image of the incident was taken by Kerry Keement, who took the photo and submitted it to Newport Dispatch’s Facebook wall on Saturday afternoon, just after the fire.

fire at Newport Post office Vermont

Two Injured in Accident on Route 105 in Newport Saturday

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — On Saturday, at around 1:20 p.m. Chelsey Thibeault of West Glover was involved in an accident with Nicholas Giroux of Derby Line.

Thibeault was driving a 2003 Dodge Neon east on Vermont Route 105 in Newport Center, when she turned on her directional signal coming up to a stop. She was about to make a left turn into the parking lot of Wayne’s Snack Bar when she was struck by Giroux. He was driving a 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Thibeault and her passengers were wearing their seat belts, with one passenger in a child restraint system. Thibeault and her child were transported to the North Country Hospital by Newport Ambulance. They were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

According to the Vermont State Police, Giroux was not wearing his seat belt and was evaluated by ambulance personnel at the scene. Newport Center Fire Department also responded to the crash.

Both vehicles sustained damage. The Dodge Neon was driven from the scene and the Mitsubishi was towed by Rays Auto out of Newport.

New Indoor Walking Trail to Open at North Country Career Center

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — A new indoor walking trail will be open four times per week at the North Country Career Center, offering local walkers the opportunity to stay warm and dry while they get their walking routines in.

The track will have two loops, one with stairs, and one without. Both will be just under a mile.

Walking hours will be open at the NCCC at:

(Evenings) Monday and Thursday — 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
(Mornings) Tuesday and Friday — 6:00 – 7:00 a.m.

Once the new indoor walking trail is open, hours may be extended if enough participants use the facility.

There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony to inaugurate the new track at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 13.

All interested participants can walk for free, but, if you come out be sure to bring a photo ID. Walkers will need to be registered through the NCCC Adult Education for insurance purposes.

Be sure to bring a pair of clean walking shoes to use inside so that the trail remains clean and safe for other users.

Although the weather will soon be warming up, and walkers using the facility may only get a little over a month of use out of the track before being able to take their routines back outside for the season, this first month will help in preparing to make the space available next year.

“Back in November I was remembering all the people who would walk at the IROC, and I felt bad that there was no place for them to walk indoors.” Gwen Bailey-Rowe, Assistant Director for Adult Education at the North Country Career Center, said. “We’re open to having this project grow and evolve, so we needed to get the ball rolling to see how it goes.”

Helicopter Shuttle to Jay Peak and Full U.S. Port of Entry Planned at Newport State Airport

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — As plans continue to move forward with the expansion project at the Newport State Airport, Jay Peak Resort is planning to operate a helicopter shuttle from the airport to the resort. It is also expected that the airport will eventually become a full Port of Entry into the U.S.

The helicopter shuttle service will serve customers who travel to Jay Peak via Newport State Airport. This service would eventually be extended to Q Burke Mountain when development is completed over the next several years.

According to a report that came out in February, the current airport terminal building is small, outdated, and inadequate to accommodate current aviation demand and any future growth.

There are also no customs services offered at the existing airport terminal. To support the demand for customs service from Canada and other foreign countries, the report goes on to state that the Vermont Department of Transportation has been pursuing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to service Newport State Airport.

It’s anticipated that the Customs service will start out as a fee-for-service operation and become a full Port of Entry, with full-time staff stationed at the Airport in several years as use increases.

Adding customs service to Newport State Airport is expected to increase use of the airport by aircraft from Canada and will provide utility to AnC-BIO and other local businesses involved in foreign trade. An increase in jet usage at Newport State Airport due to U.S. Customs availability is also expected.

Wilson and Morrissette Elected – Newport Police Chief Gets Two Officer 24 Hour Patrols

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — Out of 3,280 registered voters, only 495 came out to vote on Tuesday, approving the city municipal budget of $3 million. Included in the budget is the hiring of another police officer, which will allow the city to have two active patrols on duty 24 hours a day.

Richard Wells, who works part of the year at North Country Union High School, will still work as the school resource officer, with the school board paying his salary and benefits.

The city council race was close, with John Wilson and Neil Morrissette being elected. In a vote of 369 for Wilson, and 286 for Morrissette.

Corey Therrien, who was running for city council, lost by only 61 votes. Therrien was elected to represent Newport on the NCUHS board, receiving 338 votes.

A budget of $5.29 million was approved for the Newport City Elementary school.

There will be a technology fund set up at the request of the school board, which passed by a vote of 328 to 170. In total $24,565 will go to this fund.

All other appropriations were approved.

In His Own Words: Corey Therrien for Newport City Council

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — Corey Therrien, who is running for Newport City Council, sat down for an interview with Newport Dispatch last night at Montgomery Cafe, to talk about why he decided to run, and what makes him the best choice for the job.

Newport Dispatch has put together some of the conversation to introduce Mr. Therrien to Newport voters as they head into Town Meeting Day on Tuesday, March 4. Please listen to the interview below:

Addressing Homelessness and Housing Issues in Newport

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — Wednesday night at the monthly Community Commons meeting at the Gateway Center in Newport, the topic was housing. The meeting was a way to bring together the facts, to identify the need, and to come together to try and come up with a solution.

When it comes to addressing the issue of homelessness in the Northeast Kingdom, one of the problems is that it tends to be invisible. However, the numbers are shocking.

On Tuesday, Community Health Integration in St. Johnsbury saw 24 people who needed shelter for the night. In Newport, Home Team, a group of residents trying to help by offering overnight kits for those in need, have issued 20 kits so far. The kits include such basic necessities as a hat, gloves, and space blanket. It is also estimated that at least 20 veterans are homeless in the Northeast Kingdom.

The current state of affordable subsidized housing tells another story. There are 420 people in the area currently on a waiting list to have access to such facilities. The waiting list at Newport Senior Housing is 30 people.

And then there is the issue of housing affordability. If you spend less than 1/3 of your income on housing related expenses, it is considered affordable. However, in Orleans county, we pay more than 50 percent of our income for housing, a number which demonstrates that people do not make enough money in the area to afford to live in the housing that is available.

photoParticipants on Wednesday night, assembled in a circle, sat for over 2 hours to address these housing issues.

“Today we’re identifying a need,” Patricia Sears, moderator of the Community Commons gathering said. “If we work together, we can find a solution.”

In order to find the solution, it was important for the group to identify not only the need, but some of the obstacles that get in the way of making the positive changes that the group would like to see happen.

Here again, the facts are shocking. It appears one of the biggest issues to opening a homeless shelter in the area is insurance. For a local church to offer an overnight facility, they would need to buy an additional liability insurance that most could not afford.

Much of the meeting Wednesday night focused on this need for a local warming shelter, and served as the starting point for this newly formed coalition.

When members of the Newport City Council were asked by a group of local church leaders as to some of the other hoops besides insurance that would need to be jumped through in setting up a shelter, they were told that there are also zoning issues, state safety issues, as well as building codes.

Merton Bangemann-Johnson of Rural Edge, the Northeast Kingdom’s affordable housing non-profit, said that it is cheaper to build a shelter from scratch, than it is to retrofit an existing building.

After some heated discussion, there was some consensus that unfortunately it does comes down to economics, and that those issues need to be addressed early on in the planning of how the group will move forward to address the issue.

“We don’t have the funds,” Newport Mayor Paul Monette said. “We can maybe work with you, but we’re trying to keep our tax rate down and promote development. We also don’t have the land in Newport, which is another issue.”

“It’s easy to throw stones, but the real problem is that we’re poor,” City Manager John Ward said. “People come here to live, and they don’t have jobs, and we can’t afford to maintain them.”

The meeting concluded by focusing on the importance of staying connected, and networking with people interested in helping work toward tackling some of the issues which were brought up. The Community Commons meetings are designed to facilitate such connections.

“The numbers we went over tonight really tell a story,” Scott Libby, pastor of the Grace Brethren Church, said after the meeting. “I’m also really interested as to what the liability insurance would cost at our church to set up a shelter, because I just don’t know.”

One local church leader who did not want his name mentioned in this article stated that he felt the need to organize an effort to open a homeless shelter was clear, and that he and his colleagues would look into the issue, but, he felt that City Council members who attended the meeting did not seem to offer any hope toward it becoming a reality.

“It’s one thing for us to try to come up with a location, and to organize the effort, but tonight the City Council members didn’t have one positive thing to say as far as making it seem even remotely possible,” the church leader said. “You need some reassurance when you start a project like this, and you saw tonight that we didn’t really get any.”

The Community Commons gatherings are held from 6 to 8 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month. There is an optional pot luck dinner, and all are welcome.

AARP Vermont Announces Community Action Grant Winners in Newport

in Newport

NEWPORT — As AARP Vermont continues to support efforts to make Newport a more “age-friendly” city, they have announced the winners of their 2014 Community Action Grants. The winners are:

Fresh Start Community Farm, Jennifer Black ($2,000)
Newport Dispatch, Bryan Marovich ($2,000)
Cornucopia Program/Umbrella Inc., Lynne Rublee ($1,000)
The Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Ayeshah Raftery ($1,000)

In partnering with AARP Vermont, Newport has committed to embrace the changing demographics of an aging population by focusing on safe, walkable streets, better housing and transportation options, access to key services, and community engagement opportunities for all ages. These Community Action Grants support that direction by funding small, grassroots organizations that are working to advance the Age Friendly movement.

AARP officials conducted the selection process along with Patricia Sears of Newport City Renaissance Corp. and community leader Pam Ladds.

“This was an eye-opening experience,” said Sears. “It was encouraging to see so many good ideas out there that enrich our community in different ways. We are very grateful to have AARP as a partner — to not only fund these grants, but to work with us on ways to improve Newport for all ages.”
 
Ladds indicated how difficult it was to choose winners.

“We are fortunate to have such great energy in Newport around community development, but it made for a very difficult selection process,” said Ladds.  “I wish we could fund them all!”
 
“We are very pleased to extend support to these projects as a way to foster local community development initiatives in Newport,” said Greg Marchildon, state director at AARP Vermont.  “We received a broad range of proposals to consider this year and we hope these modest grants will inspire and support dedicated grassroots groups that have a vision for Newport and how it can be enhanced. We are committed to working with our partners and officials in Newport as they develop future plans and we expect to continue this program next year as well.”

AARP Vermont Outreach Director Kelly Stoddard Poor was also part of the selection committee.

Below is a summary of each organization:

Fresh Start Community Farm — Fresh Start Community Farm was started in 2011 with a mission to provide access to fresh food while also building a strong community. It now operates four sites and is completely volunteer based. Last year, the farm produced over 4,900 pounds of food and donated 2,100 pounds to the community. It also launched an Adopt-a-Grandparent program which pairs elderly and younger volunteers who garden together. With the AARP grant, Fresh Start will expand its programs by purchasing raised beds which will provide wheelchair access for volunteers who need it.

Newport Dispatch — This independent online news site is focused on Newport and surrounding towns featuring human interest, arts and entertainment news. Launched in October 2013, the aim is to provide an additional resource while engaging more people in community activities and issues. The AARP grant will support Newport Dispatch’s effort to provide strong citizen journalism for NEK residents and fund more advanced audio equipment.

Cornucopia Program / Umbrella Inc.
— A non-profit serving the Northeast Kingdom by providing advocacy services for women and families who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Cornucopia is an Umbrella program that helps those in unsafe living situations as they move into more secure and independent arrangements. Partnering with Vermont Works for Women, it provides meals to low-income and homebound seniors and these meal sites also serve as a place for those over 60 to access Umbrella’s domestic violence and sexual violence services. The meal sites have proven to offer great meals and a place for seniors to connect with one another and learn about vital community services. This grant will help Cornucopia to extend its job training initiatives for vulnerable female citizens.

The Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (VABVI)
— Established in 1926, VABVI works to help blind and visually impaired Vermonters become independent. Operating across the state, they hold regular Peer Assisted Learning and Support (PALS) classes providing a place for participants (mostly seniors) to discuss how their impairments affect their lives and how to cope with them. The PALS group in Newport, led by Harriet Hall, helps seniors in the area on issues ranging from learning to make meals, continue socializing, coping with vision loss, assistive technology and awareness. The AARP grant will provide a resource the Newport PALS group to secure guest speakers, provide food and materials as well as to organize community awareness events.

Scenes from Penguin Plunge Newport 2014

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — “It was a lot colder getting out,” Matt Smith said. “It almost felt like your skin was freezing.

Mr. Smith was one of the brave souls who faced single digit temperatures on Sunday as they jumped into Lake Memphremagog to raise money for Special Olympics Vermont.

The Penguin Plunge is a three-part event series that reaches 1,500 brave participants across Vermont and the surrounding states. The highly anticipated fundraising event now attracts school groups, sports teams, businesses, families, and law enforcement.

“It was not as bad as I thought it would be,” Ms. Hardin, who jumped in with a team from North Country Hospital Rehab Services, said. “Our team was ready for this, and I think we’re all in for next year.”

Newport Dispatch has put together the following video from the event, as well as some photos taken by Tanya Mueller.

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Columbia Forest Products Employee Injured In Chipper Room

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — On Tuesday evening at around 9:30, an individual’s arm was pinched in a belt that is located inside the chipper room at the Columbia Forest Products facility in Newport.

Although initial reports of the incident reported that the individual involved in the tragic accident had his arm caught in the chipper, Glenn Foster, Columbia Forest Product’s local Plant Manager, stated that it was only the belt itself that caused the injury.

“An individual’s arm was pinched in a belt that is located inside the chipper room, although the chipper itself was not involved in the incident,” Foster said.

In a statement released by Foster, he did not play down the extent of the injury, but wanted to make it clear that the chipper was not involved.

He went on to say that an extensive investigation is taking place that will reveal the root cause of the incident.

In the meantime, Mr. Foster and his human resource team are reaching out to the individual and his family to do what they can to get him on the road to recovery.

Foster also went on to compliment Columbia employees that responded, the Newport fire department, EMT attendees and North Country Health system’s emergency response teams for doing a fantastic job providing quick medical attention.

Newport City Fire Chief James LeClair also stated that Columbia Forest Products employees did an excellent job at getting the man out of harms way.

Video Highlights from the Fire and Ice Radar Run Snowmobile Event with Results

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — It’s a bird…it’s a plane…no…it’s Pat Sicard’s snowmobile going 135 miles per hour down Lake Memphremagog.

The Fire and Ice Radar Run took place on Saturday behind the East Side Restaurant. The event had 57 people sign up to take a high speed run down the 600 foot track, with a 400 foot slowdown lane.

Pat Sicard was just shy of setting an all-time record for the event. Joe Churly clocked in at 125 miles per hour, the second fastest ride of the day.

Below are the race results:

700 Improved (mph)

Mark Labrie (99)
Jim Corr (97)

700 Modified

Nate Botala (99)
Stephanie Clark (97)

Stock Power Up Four Stroke

Tom Ashley (104)
Chris Fisher (96)

Open 100 Pro Stock

Joe Churly (125)
Todd Demarini (119)

Outlaw

Pat Sicard (135)

Kids

Jonathan Hunt (53)
Connor Oliver (47)

Powder Puff

Michelle Matten (74)
Karen Fontaine (72)

Vintage

Doug Matten (77)
Andrew Matten (76)

500 Stock

Dan St. Hilaire (88)
Sam Schneider (77)

600 Stock

Nick Sicard (93)
Joseph Egitto (87)

700 Stock

Dana Morse (92)
Bob Vidile (90)

800 Stock

Ben Fitzgerald (92)
Jimmy Reid (91)

800 Improved

Mark Labrie (106)
Carl Dudley (105)

Stroke 1,000 Stock

Derrick Choquette (95)
Josh Briere (93)

1,000 Stock

Jimmy Reid (98)
Dave Wulfson (95)

Snowmobiling Weekend Starts Today

in Newport

NEWPORT — Starting today and running through Sunday, snowmobilers from Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine are taking part in a three-day weekend when riders who are registered in any one of these states can ride the trails of the other two states for free.

The states have agreed to allow trail access without having to pay another state for the opportunity to ride there. Officials say that it is good for the economy of all three states.

All other host state regulations apply, including speed limits, youth laws and Vermont’s mandatory liability insurance law.

This reciprocity weekend has been going since 2010, with Maine joining the weekend festivities in 2011.

So if you have a snowmobile legally registered in any of the participating states, starting today you are allowed on trails in all three states.

Have fun, and be safe.

For more information on snowmobiling in the area, visit the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club, and the North Country Mountaineers Club.

I Heart Newport Collects Clothing for Lyndon State College Graduates

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — For young people trying to enter the workforce without a job, it can sometimes be difficult to afford the clothes you need to “dress for success.”

Lyndon State College has the answer. A “Dress for Success” clothing drive. The goal is to provide a free business-ready outfit for each junior or senior who could use the help. The clothes provide a starting point for the students’ professional wardrobe.

On Friday night, I Heart Newport, a local Facebook group with over 200 members, held a clothing exchange of their own. They decided it would be a great opportunity to help LSC out. What would have normally been a free-for-all clothing exchange, turned into a great way to collect clothing for the LSC Dress for Success drive.

Before the ladies in attendance Friday night were allowed to start swapping clothes, they pulled out a couple of outfits that would be suitable for the graduating LSC students to wear during interviews.

“Tonight was another great example of local people sharing love and support to their community-at-large,” said Beth Barnes, founder of I Heart Newport. “I’d like to wish all graduating seniors happy job hunting and good luck.”

Some of Friday night’s attendees included Diana Poulin of Muddy Waters Pottery, Lori Gilbar Christopher, who works for Vermont Family Network, Wendy Franklin, Director of Community Outreach North Country Hospital, Jess Philippe, Christina Contoir, Assistant Director, Ctr. for Rural Entrepreneurship at Lyndon State College, and Ruth Sproull, owner of Little Gnesta Bed and Breakfast.

Below are some scenes from the night.

Beth Barnes presenting Christina Contoir, Assistant Director, Ctr. for Rural Entrepreneurship at Lyndon State College, with one of her contributions to the Dressed For Success drive.
Beth Barnes presenting Christina Contoir, Assistant Director, Ctr. for Rural Entrepreneurship at Lyndon State College, with one of her contributions to the Dressed For Success drive.
Lisa Daigle-Farney, Director of Community Education & Outreach at Northeast Kingdom Learning Services, proves that hats never go out of style.
Lisa Daigle-Farney, Director of Community Education & Outreach at Northeast Kingdom Learning Services, proves that hats never go out of style.
Beth Barnes won the prize for bravery  by agreeing to be photographed in this rather creative outfit proving that  flamingos and plaids do not equal a fashion statement.
Beth Barnes won the prize for bravery
by agreeing to be photographed in this rather creative outfit proving that
flamingos and plaids do not equal a fashion statement.

January’s Third Thursday Open Mic in Newport

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — The word is out. Newport has an open mic, and there is no shortage of talent in the area.

It was the first Third Thursday Open Mic of 2014 at Montgomery Cafe, and the monthly event continues to draw a crowd.

“I marvel at the talent that such a small area produces,” Beth Barnes, who started the event, said. “Everyone is so unique, everyone so worthy, and everyone so appreciated by the audience that comes out and supports them.”

Melissa Vanderwerf captured the scenes from the night which are displayed below.

“I would like to thank Melissa especially for the beautiful and expressive photos she captured,” Ms. Barnes said.

Newport Dispatch did an audio story on last month’s Third Thursday Open Mic. To listen CLICK HERE.

All photos by Melissa Vanderwerf.

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$21 Million Military Contract to Bring 43 Jobs to Newport

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — In October, Revision Military laid off 35 its 57 workers in Newport when it didn’t get the government contract that company official had counted on. On Monday, the company announced that they had won a new contract worth $21 million, that will bring 43 jobs back to Newport. The contract is to supply the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) – Troop Support,  with 90,000 Advanced Combat Helmets (ACH).

“Revision is proud to answer the U.S. Military’s call for an additional 90,000 ACH helmets,” Jonathan Blanshay, CEO of Revision, said in a statement Monday. “We’re a proven and dependable supplier having delivered over a million helmets from the Newport manufacturing facility. In addition to leveraging existing manufacturing technologies to deliver head protective solutions for today, like the ACH, we’re also shaping the future of soldier protection with innovative composite materials, new manufacturing processes and integrated designs.”

In addition to this contract, Revision was recently selected as a development partner for the U.S. Army’s Integrated Head Protection System, which is being built up to become the Army’s next widely-fielded head protection system.

Revision employs 200 people worldwide, including 125 in Essex Junction. Employees in Essex were unaffected by October’s job losses.

[AUDIO] Saturday Night Swing in Newport

in Feature/Newport

A wise man once said, “It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing.”

Saturday night at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the 18 piece Swing North Big Band played their Swinging Epiphany Celebration. The show was part of the Now Playing Newport music series. Press play below to hear the story.



For more information about the Now Playing Newport music series, please visit them online at NowPlayingNewport.Com | All photos by Tanya Mueller. |


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Sound Bites: Newport’s Third Thursday Open Mic Night at Montgomery Cafe [AUDIO]

in Arts and Entertainment/Feature/Newport

Newport Dispatch visited the Third Thursday Open Mic Series at Montgomery Cafe in Newport. Thursday’s event brought together local poets and musicians. Started by Beth Barnes three months ago, word of Newport’s open mic has quickly spread, with musicians coming out from Lyndonville just to participate.

Please press play below to hear some of the music, and to be introduced to some of the musicians who are coming to Newport once a month for the event.

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Newport Moving into the Future: Two Wheels and Two Feet at a Time

in Feature/Newport/News

Photo Left to Right – Jeff Manning, owner of The Village Bike Shop, Gary White, local marathon runner, and Dr. Peter Harris, shared their personal stories and expertise in order to educate and invite discussion at Saturday’s community forum “Streets, Sidewalks, and Bike Paths,” co-hosted by the he HealthWorks ONE Coalition and the Newport City Renaissance Corporation Design Committee.

NEWPORT — The HealthWorks ONE Coalition, serving Orleans and Northern Essex Counties, in collaboration with the Newport City Renaissance Corporation Design Committee, asked the community where they want to go. On Saturday, a community forum was held in the Hebard State Building. Despite the below zero temperatures, a large contingent of people gathered to listen to the speakers and to share their opinions and hopes on how we can all move into the future, together.

forum_3“I’m so encouraged by the number of people who came together for the common good of our community,” Beth Barnes, Fit and Healthy Coordinator for HealthWorks ONE said. “We have the strong beginnings of a sound infrastructure that supports and encourages biking, walking and alternative modes of transport, but we can always improve.”

Dr. Peter Harris, a local athlete and champion for good health gave a compelling presentation in which he stressed the importance of healthy eating and exercise habits. His message to all is that if we take care of our bodies they will take care of us. Dr. Harris is a strong advocate for enjoying what the Newport area has to offer, especially during the winter. He reminded everyone that Memphremagog Ski Touring Foundation, a local non-profit, is a great resource available to the entire community.

Jeff Manning, owner of The Village Bike Shop in Derby, brought bicycles and explained ways to introduce children to the delights, as well as the importance of riding.

“We need to encourage children to ride, but it’s our responsibility as adults to teach them the right ways to do it,” Jeff said. “Safety should always be the first lesson so children grow up respecting the roads, and learn to enjoy the freedom a bike can offer.”

Mr. Manning, like most at the forum, is a strong advocate for a path that would connect Derby to Newport, bringing the two towns with a strong connection even closer.

The final speaker was Gary White, who gave a touching account of how he was encouraged to run his first marathon by local trainer, Sharon Stewart. He said that his father’s final advice was to take better care of himself. Gary took that advice to heart. He changed his life by starting a carefully planned exercise routine. He has now run countless marathons, and even has his name in the Guinness Book of World Records. Mr. White, who spends countless hours using the local streets and paths each week, brought the forum his own reports on what he encounters, and how he thinks Newport’s streets, roads, and paths could be improved.

The goal of the forum was to give the community a platform where they could listen, learn, and share their ideas. HealthWorks ONE and the Design Committee are committed to implementing ways by which all Newport’s streets can be user friendly for everyone.

“I feel that a collaboration between interested community members, local government, non-profits, and businesses, is a way to work toward giving people more of a choice when it comes to getting where they want to go,” Ms. Barnes closed by saying. “The forum was very encouraging.”

For more information, please contact Beth at beth.barnes@neklsvt.org

All photos by Tanya Mueller.

A view from Saturday’s Santa Festival in Newport

in Newport/News

NEWPORT — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and Santa Clause is coming to town. Saturday’s Santa Festival in Newport let everyone in town know. Festivities kicked off downtown at 11 a.m. If you were not able to make it out Saturday, here is a collection of photographs taken by Tanya Mueller that will give you a sense of just how in the spirit of the holidays the people of Newport are this year. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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Newport Vermont Santa Festival

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Community Action Grant Applications Sought in Newport

in Newport/News

Deadline Approaching

NEWPORT — AARP Vermont is encouraging groups and citizens to submit applications for the 2014 Community Action Sponsorship Program — a program to provide modest grant funds and technical support to community groups or individuals. The initiative is part of the recently adopted Age Friendly Communities initiative aimed at preparing Newport for the rapidly aging demographic shift – particularly in the areas of housing, mobility and community engagement.

The Community Action Sponsorships will provide financial and other support to groups within Newport that will advocate for improvements in any of the following areas:

– Affordable housing options for older residents
– Delivery of services to help older residents age in the setting of their choice
– Public transit or alternative transportation services
– Fostering intergenerational and multi-cultural connection
– Financial security for low income older residents
– Socialization and fostering community connection for older residents
– Education and awareness about LGBTQ elders
– Community accessibility for residents with disabilities
– Implementation of Complete Streets: Pedestrian & Bike infrastructure (sidewalks, amenities for walkers and bikers, public art, safe street crossings, bike lanes, navigation, etc.)

“We are committed to supporting community efforts in Newport and encourage those interested to apply. Our selection criteria and process are flexible and we are open to a broad range of ideas,” said Kelly Stoddard Poor of AARP Vermont.

The sponsorship is open to individuals, grassroots groups and small non-profits in Newport and should represent a desire to make change through local level activism and advocacy.

The deadline for applications is December 31, 2013. Up to four groups will be selected for grants ranging from $500-$2,000. Grants will be one-time funding for a 12-month period and groups who are awarded sponsorships will receive technical assistance and training from AARP staff.

AARP is partnering with Newport City Renaissance Corp. and executive director Patricia Sears on the effort. Applications and an RFP are available from Kelly Stoddard Poor at 802-951-1313 or kstoddardpoor@aarp.org

Newport to Become an Age-Friendly Community

in Newport/News

NEWPORT — With the support of Newport Mayor Paul Monette, Newport City Council and developer Bill Stenger, Newport is poised to become Vermont’s first city to join AARP’s nationwide Network of Age Friendly Cities. As such, the city embraces the changing demographics of an aging population by focusing on safe, walkable streets, better housing and transportation options, access to key services and community engagement opportunities for all ages.

As Newport plans for major redevelopment of its downtown and economic base, the city and its partners — including AARP Vermont and the Newport City Renaissance Corp. — are looking at ways to prepare for a rapidly aging population.

“With our aging population, especially in Vermont, we must ensure all communities are friendly to all residents from our youth to our senior citizens,” said Mayor Monette in his letter of support to AARP. With the support of a city council resolution, he pledged to establish an advisory citizens’ committee that includes the active engagement of older adults, and he committed to responding with a “concrete and robust plan of action” to address the needs of older residents.

Jay Peak CEO Bill Stenger also expressed support to have Newport considered an Age-Friendly city as part of the AARP network. “I would very much like to see Newport as a frontrunner in our state to proactively address the needs of our valuable aging population,” he wrote. “This initiative will prepare our city and community for the steadily aging population while benefiting all of our residents.”

AARP’s role in this program advances efforts to help people live easily and comfortably in their homes and communities as they age, and encourages older citizens to take active roles and have their voices heard. Focus areas include housing, transportation, caregiving, community engagement, volunteering, social inclusion and combatting isolation among elders.

A key player in leading the effort has been the Newport City Renaissance Corp. and its executive director Patricia Sears. “We are very excited about this partnership with AARP and really value its role in helping Newport realize our potential as a livable community for all ages,” she said. “With the significant investment coming to our region, our city is in a unique position to effect change in ways that will benefit residents and businesses alike.”

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization with 138,000 members in Vermont and 40 million members nationally. Through a wide array of special benefits, services, and information resources, we help our members make important choices, reach their goals and dreams, and make the most of life after 50.

This release was sent in by:

David Reville, Communications Director
AARP Vermont
802-951-1303

Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture says that Vermont is leading the country in terms of Agriculture, but faces challenges from the Food Safety Modernization Act

in Newport/News

NEWPORT — Chuck Ross, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, was in Newport on Tuesday to listen to the concerns of local farmers. The meeting was the first in a series of listening sessions, the rest of which will take place over the next few months throughout the state.

The low turnout in Newport for the meeting made it more of a listening session for the audience, as Ross had plenty to say in regards to the good things that are happening with Vermont’s agriculture. He also warned of the threat that the state faces in light of the Food Safety Modernization Act draft that was recently passed by Congress.

One thing that Vermont’s agriculture has going for it, is Chuck Ross himself. The Secretary of Agriculture has been named President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Listening to him speak on Tuesday, it was clear that as a state, we have one of the most knowledgeable minds in the industry working for us.

Ross laid it out for those in attendance. As a state, we are leading the way, and we also will face severe challenges set by the Food and Drug Administration.

“When you look at the state of Vermont, and what’s happening in agriculture, it’s really exciting,” Ross said. “We are leading the country in a number of ways. We’re on the cutting edge.”

According to Ross, when you talk about agriculture in Vermont, you have to start with dairy. The dairy farms support the dairy manufacturing industry in the state. This provides many Vermonters with quality jobs.

“I can’t underscore enough the importance that dairy is to the state. A lot of the other agriculture, like cheese making and yogurt, is what I call dairy plus, because it’s supported by the dairy farms. Also, the dairy farmers over the last 70 years have held the land, kept it open, and kept it productive.”

Ross went on to say that although there has been talk about herd numbers across the state decreasing, down about 2,000 cows over the last couple of years, the herd supply is fairly stable, and the milk supply is stable.

“Our farmers are getting better and better at producing more milk per cow, every year,” he said.

Chuck Ross in NewportRoss talked about what he called the “agriculture renaissance,” happening in the state, that is bringing in a younger generation of farmers. This influx of younger farmers are proving to be successful in marketing and exporting their products all over the country, which is helping to build a new and diversified economic based agriculture. At a time when the average age of dairy farmers is in the 50’s, and the number of dairy farmers decreases, these new businesses are making a good partnership with the dairy community by putting less stress on the service industries that have been built around dairy.

Ross also pointed out that Vermont is leading the way in terms of diversification and localization of agriculture.

“Vermont is seen as one of the top three artisan cheese regions in the world,” Ross said. “Our artisan cheeses compete internationally, and do incredibly well in every competition they enter. But, you can’t do good cheese, without great milk.”

Vermont is also the number one producer of maple products in the United States. Maple production is the fastest growing and most profitable agriculture in the state. Our northern neighbors in Quebec are still by far the largest producer of maple in the world.

We are also number one when it comes to direct marketing of agriculture, with CSA programs, farmers markets, and roadside stands, driving this type of growth.

“People are copying what we’re doing in Vermont in terms of supporting and growing our local economies and communities by investing in agriculture,” Ross said.

The challenge that we face comes by way of the federal government, with the Food Safety Modernization Act. The draft is a set of regulations by the Food and Drug Administration, which was drafted in response to legislation passed by Congress to make our food system safer. According to Ross, as the draft stands today, it will seriously impact the state’s agriculture, making it much harder for farmers to do business.

“This is a huge cloud hanging over much of what we’re doing with agriculture in the state of Vermont,” Ross said. “Quite candidly, the FDA wrote a draft that is not well constructed to be useful, effective, or implementable in a way that works for agriculture in Vermont and many other states.”

Ross stated that people producing produce for direct human consumption are going to be regulated according to the Food Safety Modernization Act in ways that they have never been regulated before.

“Very significantly for the state of Vermont, the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance is potentially being rewritten,” Ross said. “The PMO has served us well. I’m scratching my head wondering why are they going to mess with something that has enabled us to produce the best food product for human consumption in the world, year after year.”

Ross said that many have been engaged in pressing the FDA not to take the draft set of rules, and make it a final set of rules. He said that they are requesting that a second draft be written.

While discussing what some of the new rules would be, Ross said that one says that you can not harvest a product for human consumption for nine months after you have applied manure. That would be a growing season in the state of Vermont. You would also have to wait 45 days to harvest a product that used compost as a soil amendment.

When asked if the FDA was considering a redraft of the rules as they stand, Ross said that he is optimistic.

“I’d say we’ve gone from unlikely, to possible.”

Christmas Tree Shops in Newport Are Open For Business

in Newport

NEWPORT — Thanksgiving is behind us. Next stop, Christmas. What better way to start the season than with a locally grown tree? Within a few miles of each other on Main Street in Newport, you have your choice of two great spots to grab a wonderfully fragrant tree or wreath for the holidays this year.

The Garden Patch Farm Stand, located at 1700 East Main Street, has a wonderful selection of trees lined up and ready to go.

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Just down the road and across the street from Cumberland Farms, at 535 East Main Street, Carl Szych and his family are up and running. Mr. Szych brings in the homegrown trees from his two farms, one located in Brownington, and the other in Coventry. Both of his tree farms offer a choose and cut option, but for one ready to go, stop in at his stand in Newport.

Christmas trees Newport Vermont

Mr. Szych has been in this spot for 18 years, and many of his customers come back every year to buy one of his trees.

“We just had somebody stop in today who has been buying Christmas trees from us for the last five
years,” Mr. Szych said.

There is also a nice selection of wreaths on display.

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